The Takhini finish line was a busy location Wednesday as six mushers arrived over the course of the day, deciding places eight through 13.
First in at 2:53am was 35-year-old Quest rookie Seth Barnes, claiming eighth place with a time of 10 days, 13 hours, 47 minutes. Barnes did the run from Braeburn with seven dogs, all of whom had been with him for his Iditarod finish in 2015.
Taking ninth overall, and the first female competitor to cross the finish, was Yuka Honda, arriving at 4:49am for a total time of 10 days, 15 hours, 43 minutes. The gathered crowd chanted her name as she and her team of nine approached. Yuka was all smiles, and thanked everyone who had come to watch the mushers get in at such an early hour.
A little less than an hour later, Mike Ellis finished his fifth Yukon Quest in a time of 10 days, 16 hours, and 33 minutes. Tenth place Ellis said the journey in from Braeburn was spectacular, with both the moon and the northern lights putting on an amazing show. He was able to shut off his headlamp and just enjoy.
Ten days, 17 hours, and 3 minutes after he started in Fairbanks, Dave Dalton’s team of 10 came across the finish at 6:09am to claim 11th place. As his dogs chowed down on some breakfast, Mike Ellis came over for a congratulatory handshake. The two mushers had been just four miles apart for the homestretch of their race.
The next team in was Luc Tweddell at 5:06pm, with a time of 11 days and exactly 4 hours. Though he came in with just six dogs, Tweddell said that was okay because they were “the right six.” Asked about his thoughts on this year’s course rerouting he said the hills just kept going and anytime he went downhill he knew he would be paying for it later.
In 13th place, with a time of 11 days, 7 hours, and 4 minutes, was 19-year-old rookie sensation Laura Neese, making the run from Braeburn in just under nine hours. Asked about coming through the storm on the way into Dawson Neese said she thought it was fun. “But I'm crazy,” she joked. As for whether she plans to return for next year’s race, Neese was emphatic: “Oh yeah! We’ll be back.”
Just six mushers remain in the field. Travelling companions Paige Drobny, Cody Strathe and Andrew Pace left Braeburn checkpoint shortly after 6pm this evening and are now within 30 miles of the finish. Rookie Norwegian Tore Albrigsten and his 9-dog team departed Braeburn at 10:32pm and now have less than 60 miles to go. Rob Cooke is set to leave Braeburn at 1:18am, and Gaetan Pierrard is now under the 50 mile mark on his way from Carmacks to Braeburn.